JUDGE UPHOLDS SENTENCE IN DUI MANSLAUGHTER DEATHS
Posted on Mar 10, 2016
Eight years ago this month, Andrew Freeman's father was killed by a drunken driver in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 95 in Delray Beach.
So Freeman says he has no sympathy for the nearly 33-year prison sentence being served by former North Lauderdale resident Kenneth Jenkins — a term upheld last week by a Palm Beach County judge.
"It is indeed a very long sentence, but he earned every day of it by his actions," said Freeman, who lost his father, Robert Rutman, 83, of Boca Raton. Two other people died in the March 16, 2008, wreck.
Jenkins and his attorneys last month asked Circuit Judge Charles Burton to throw out the prison sentence. They claimed Jenkins' former lawyers fumbled the DUI manslaughter case by pursuing a defense that the victims' car, not Jenkins', was heading the wrong way.
Months after the crash, it became clear through an investigation that Jenkins was the wrong-way driver and he took responsibility, attorney David Oscar Markus said. Jenkins' blood-alcohol level was .182, more than twice the legal limit to drive.
Jenkins testified Feb. 16 that he had wanted to accept blame, but continued to trust his lawyers Jack Goldberger and Michael E. Dutko.
Markus said the delay in not resolving the case until 2011 led to the disastrous circumstance of Jenkins, while still out on bail, getting caught on video playing beer pong at a bar.
A private investigator hired by a cousin of Rutman had shot the video and turned it over to the court.
While sentencing Jenkins, Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal said Jenkins' participation "in a drinking game on the eve of sentencing is a slap in the fact and an affront to the victims and their survivors and friends."
State guidelines then called for a minimum of 32 years, 10 1/2 months in prison; the maximum possible was a life term. Oftedal could have justified going below the minimum but declined.
Markus said his research found no other defendant in Florida had ever been sentenced to so long in prison for DUI manslaughter convictions.
But Judge Burton said the beer pong incident was "the nail in the coffin" for Jenkins. Burton concluded, "the trial lawyers conducted themselves professionally and competently by investigating the case, especially in light of the fact that there were two witnesses who suggested that the victims were going in the wrong direction."
Assistant State Attorney Linda Harrison successfully argued for the court to keep the sentence in place, because "it would be a travesty and a true injustice" to reopen the tragic case.
Jenkins was driving a Pontiac south in the northbound lanes of I-95 near Linton Boulevard when he collided head-on with a Mercedes, according to Florida Highway Patrol and court records.
Inside the Mercedes were Boris Rapoport, 54, and Angelina Pagliuca, 58, of Hampstead, Quebec, who were heading from Boca Raton to Palm Beach International Airport with Rapoport's mother, Renee, 78, and her friend, Rutman. All but Pagliuca died.
Jenkins said he has no memory of the crash. He said he was drinking just once before his sentencing only because he was afraid of prison.
Rutman's son Freeman, who lives in San Francisco, said Jenkins shouldn't be portrayed now "as the victim of a bad lawyer."